World Boardgaming Championships – Convention Report
Earlier this month, yours truly made what has become an annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC), held August 2–8, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Philosophically, the WBC convention traces its origins to the venerable AvalonCon, which was founded on the premise that a convention based on competitive play of strategy games would find an audience. AvalonCon was discontinued 12 years ago, when game publisher Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro.
This was not to be the end, however, as a group of gamers approached former Avalon Hill VP Don Greenwood with a proposal to form a new organization. Drawing from the professional talents they had available (accounting, legal, business, publishing, etc.), the group formed the non-profit Boardgame Players Association, or BPA, and with Greenwood installed as Convention Director, the new organization was off and running.
While the BPA runs a number of events both live and via email, its raison d’être is to host the WBC, which has been held in basically the same time slot (around the first week of August) since 1999. The convention started in the Baltimore area, but for the past several years (and for many years to come), has been held in Lancaster, PA, right in the heart of Amish country.
Although WBC is nowhere near as large as say, GenCon, or even Origins, it consistently draws around 1500 attendees. Rather than being restricted to games of one publisher (as in the old AvalonCon days), the more than 150 tournaments run the gamut from family and light strategy "Eurogame" fare to hardcore war games from a wide variety of publishers. There are special Juniors events for the kids, a game auction on Tuesday, and a lot of easygoing late-night gaming fare, such as Slapshot, which draws 200 or more crazy hockey lovers every year. The tournaments are run by experienced volunteer gamemasters, and unlike many other conventions, there is no need to buy separate event tickets. If you show up for the tournament on time with a copy of the game, you’re in.
While this isn’t a show that debuts a lot of new games, MMP did have hot off the press copies of A Most Dangerous Time, by Tetsuya Nakamura (English development by Adam Starkweather, who brought us Warriors of God—see the ArmchairGeneral review). There were a lot of separate games going of the recent Richard III from Columbia Games (by the designers of Hammer of the Scots). And I got to play a couple of turns of the new The Fires of Midway from Clash of Arms, which at first glance, seemed even more exciting than its predecessor, Hell of Stalingrad. Finally, I tried to snatch a copy of Legion Wargames’ Ici, c’est la France! The Algerian War of Independence 1954-62, by Kim Kanger, but the nice folks at the booth told me they sold out in less than 2 hours …
Not to be denied, I also glimpsed a number of titles in development, such as MMP’s It Never Snows in September (INSiS), which employs Dean Essig’s Standard Combat System to portray Operation Market-Garden.
Block-game enthusiasts would likely have enjoyed Rick Young’s Fast Action Battles: Sicily from GMT. The company also showed off their upcoming Labyrinth: The War on Terror. There were a lot of political games to be had as well, such as John Poniske’s upcoming Lincoln’s War and the just-released Founding Fathers from Jolly Rogers Games (by the designers of 1960: The Making of the President), which seemed to be everywhere you looked.
The tournaments were competitive and fun, the open gaming was better-lit and well-attended this year, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. According to the BPA, this was the highest attendance ever for the WBC, despite the economy. All in all, a great week of gaming. I’ll certainly be back for more next year. Maybe I’ll even have time for that side trip to Gettysburg …
Terry Lee Coleman is former Senior Reviews Editor of Computer Gaming World magazine. He has written about board and card games for several years in such publications as Fire & Movement, Armchair General, and others. While raised in the South, he will admit to a certain fondness for Amish food.
Photos below provided courtesy of BPA/WBC.